Sergei Skripal (pictured) moved to Spain and was asked to set up a Spanish wine business
The Russian spy who is fighting for his life after being poisoned had a ‘nose for money’ and was turned by the West when an agent recruited him to sell Spanish wine, it emerged today.
Sergei Skripal, 66, remains in a critical condition with his 33-year-old daughter Yulia after the pair collapsed on a bench when they were attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Last month, only a tiny number of people knew the inside story behind the former champion army boxer who went on turn against his country.
But in just a few days he has become the most famous spy in the world whose life is being deciphered by more than 250 counter-terrorism officers desperately searching for clues.
He was born in Kiev in 1951 and it has now been revealed that he witnessed brutal fighting in Afghanistan after he was parachuted into the country when he was part of the Russian paratrooper division.
Skripal finally ended up in Spain when he became a senior GRU officer in the office of the Russian military attache in 1993.
His work earned him a strong reputation as someone was was an ‘energetic professional’ who could ‘recruit agents and extract important information’, Russian media reports.
Once in Spain, the Spanish intelligence service – the CNI – immediately spotted his potential as a recruit to western intelligence, reports The Times.
The CNI registered him as being someone who had a ‘nose for money’ and he was approached by a man called ‘Luis’ who was described as an ‘access agent’.
Luis suggested the pair should start a business selling Spanish wine and Skripal was told he would be paid handsomely if he could identify Russian business partners.
Sergei Skripal was photographed holding his daughter Yulia next to his family members after she was born
However, Skripal was at first unsure whether he was in fact recruiting Luis or it was the other way around.
After a short period Skripal eventually told his business partner he was a military intelligence officer – a piece of information that Luis undoubtedly knew but he replied by saying it would be useful for business.
The CNI later decided that Skripal would be better suited working for the MI6, an organisation the Spanish intelligence service had a good relationship with.
He later established a close relationship with a second agent and Skripal was given the codename ‘Forthwith’ and went on to provide detailed intelligence.
Both Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured together in a Zizzi restaurant) are still in a critical condition
Skripal revealed inside information about GRU operations, details about active agents and names of military intelligence officers working in Russia and around the world.
The former spy, who graduated from Kaliningrad’s military engineering school in 1972, was paid between $5,000 and $6,000 a meeting, reports The Times.
The type 1 diabetic is said to have held his ‘well-oiled’ meetings in bars and restaurants.
He would place the money in a Spanish bank account.
A police tent remains in place outside the Sainsbury’s store in Salisbury, close to where Skripal and his daughter were found
His information was shared with the CIA and sources added that he became alienated from Russia and wanted to undermine it.
It comes after Prime Minister Theresa May said the facts increasingly suggested Russia was behind the apparent ‘hit’ on the double-agent on March 4.
Branding the attack a ‘reckless and despicable act’, Mrs May said the substance used was a ‘military grade’ agent Moscow has produced.
Mrs May said the government would not accept such an attempt to ‘murder innocent civilians on our soil’.
The Zizzi restaurant where Skripal and Yulia ate before they collapsed remains closed off